Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

WVN #37: high school proposal - what's the rush?

Expand Messages
  • waylandvoters2
    Wayland Voters Network September 27, 2004 Dear Wayland Voter: ONE VOTE OR TWO ON HIGH SCHOOL PROPOSAL? AND WHEN? These were the hot topics at last week s
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 27, 2004
    • 0 Attachment
      Wayland Voters Network
      September 27, 2004

      Dear Wayland Voter:

      ONE VOTE OR TWO ON HIGH SCHOOL PROPOSAL? AND WHEN?

      These were the hot topics at last week's meetings of the School
      Committee and the High School Building Committee:
      1)Whether to have one ballot question on the high school proposal,
      whereby voters would be asked to approve or reject the entire $56
      million plan to demolish Wayland High School (except the Field House)
      and replace it with a new structure;
      2)Or whether to have two ballot questions, the first asking voters to
      approve or reject $4 million for design money, and the second at a
      later date re. the project balance of $50+ million;
      3)And when to hold the one or two votes.

      These questions may be answered tonight, Monday, Sept. 27, when the
      Selectmen, Finance Committee and School Committee hold a joint
      meeting, 8:30-9:30pm, in the Selectmen's Room (broadcast on the
      Wayland Cable Channel).

      Following are detailed reports on last week's School Committee
      meeting, submitted by WVN subscriber Tom Sciacca; and last week's
      High School Building Committee meeting, submitted by WVN Treasurer
      Michael Short.

      SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETING 9/20/04

      The primary topic of discussion at this regular School Committee
      meeting was the timing of a ballot question and Special Town Meeting
      on the high school proposal. High School Building Committee Chair
      Lea Anderson met with the School Committee to report on her group's
      meeting with the Finance Committee.

      One major question is whether to hold one vote for the entire
      proposal or hold a split vote: one in the near future for $4 million
      for design money and another later on for the $50+ million balance of
      the project.

      The SC discussed the HSBC's latest self-imposed scheduling plans for
      the project, which propose that classrooms be completed by 2007 and
      the balance of the project be completed in 2009. Superintendent Gary
      Burton commented that at least an initial approval from the town
      needed to occur before February to keep the project on schedule.

      There is an assumption that HMFH will continue on as architects for
      the proposed $56 million project.

      Presentation materials adequate for a design money vote will be
      available on November 15. Materials adequate for a full project vote
      will take longer.

      Anderson's first choice is a full project vote in January; her second
      choice is a design money vote in November. Burton said he did not
      believe the Fincom and Selectmen would support a January vote. School
      Committee member Bob Gordon said they should come up with a decision
      immediately, and that they should go for one vote. Member Fred
      Knight disagreed, saying they should wait until final School Building
      Assistance regulations are in place before asking the town to vote on
      the whole project. He also believes it will be easier to get the
      town to approve a smaller initial amount. Gordon responded that it
      will be easier to sell a vague concept than a fully designed project
      where specific choices have already been made.

      A consensus developed that December 7 is the earliest the School
      Committee can be ready for a vote, and it must be held by the end of
      January at the latest. SC members remained split on the question of
      one vote or two, with Gordon and Jeff Dieffenbach arguing for a
      single vote and Knight and Heather Pineault favoring a two-vote
      strategy. Burton urged the group to come up with a unified position
      to present to the Fincom and Selectmen at their joint meeting on
      Sept. 27, because otherwise the School Committee would be ceding
      power to the other boards. They all agreed to meet an hour before
      the joint meeting on the 27th and vote on a recommendation.
      Dieffenbach agreed to prepare two presentations, one with each
      option, for potential use.

      Modular Science Labs - Burton announced that he plans to ask for
      modular science labs at Annual Town Meeting in the spring. The
      modulars would accommodate the peak student population at the high
      school, projected to be reached before the proposed new classrooms
      can be completed (begging the question: so what's the rush to tear
      down the high school and build a new one if the use of modulars will
      accommodate the peak student population?).

      Email Lists - Pineault reported that the schools are planning to
      collect email addresses to be used for information dissemination
      ("News and Views") by the School Committee. They will be used
      for "pre-ballot" information, but cannot legally be used for
      political purposes once the ballot is actually scheduled. Knight has
      already set up a listserv for the purpose.

      HIGH SCHOOL BUILDING COMMITTEE MEETING 9/23/04

      How do you feel about a Special Town Election on Nov. 30 followed by
      a Special Town Meeting the next night?

      The High School Building Committee, which has been pushing for an
      early vote, agreed that they didn't like that proposal, but disagreed
      about other ideas on scheduling a special election on the proposed
      $56 million building project.

      The School Committee, which created the HSBC and asked for its advice
      on timing, will recommend a course of action to the Finance Committee
      and Board of Selectmen, perhaps when the three groups meet on Sept.
      27. The town already plans a vote, probably in April, for an
      operating budget override of as much as $1.5 million.

      There was no clear consensus from the HSBC except that they hope to
      have classrooms completed by September 2007 and common spaces two
      years later. To accomplish this, voters would have to approve the
      project by early next year and, as HSBC member Joe Lewin put it, "the
      dominoes would have to fall our way." (The site contains many
      environmentally sensitive areas and the permitting process could be
      problematic.)

      Member Dianne Bladon argued persistently for enough time to "sell"
      the town on the project, saying "it wouldn't be a quality job" if
      rushed. The committee would damage its credibility by making its
      case without enough time and information, she said.

      Superintendent Gary Burton recommended a vote before January, saying
      it would increase the chance of unanimous Board endorsements and
      avoid "allegations that we waited for people to leave town."

      Some members argued for two votes rather than one. That is, a special
      election, preferably in December or January, seeking approval for
      about $4 million in design funds. A separate election could be
      delayed, until 2006 if necessary, to seek approval for the remaining
      money. But more voices seemed to favor going for the entire amount
      at once.

      Members talked about "dog and pony shows," getting out the vote among
      parents and holding coffee hours with citizens.

      "If we can spoon feed them, it's not too early to get the word out,"
      said Cindy Lombardo.

      The committee will face challenges as it presents its case in what's
      expected to be a relatively short timeframe:

      -- Experts warn of environmental unknowns that could slow the project.

      -- The design of the building has changed with every recent HSBC
      meeting and the committee is pushing the architects and project
      manager to move faster to a final version. Even perspective drawings
      of the buildings - scheduled to be ready before the end of October –
      won't necessarily resemble the final project closely. (WVN readers
      may recall the difference between architect drawings of the Public
      Safety Building and the final product.) The public will have little
      chance to make suggestions. As HSBC Chair Lea Anderson said, "We're
      not looking for a lot of feedback that would result in changes."

      -- The HSBC and town officials are still tinkering with a tax-impact
      analysis. Even when they issue a final draft, it won't answer two
      very important questions: what the interest rates will be several
      years in the future; and whether Wayland will receive any money from
      the state's new School Building Assistance program.

      -- Though there is no guarantee of state aid, HSBC members continue
      to assume that it will be granted at a certain reimbursement rate,
      resulting in state aid eventually covering about $18 million of the
      cost. But the rules under which Wayland can apply in July 2007 won't
      even be issued until mid-2006. If state aid is granted, but at a
      smaller reimbursement percentage than currently assumed, the tax
      impact would increase accordingly. If no state aid is forthcoming,
      the tax bite would rise by more than 50 percent.

      Still, HSBC members make it clear that they will work with whatever
      timetable the Selectmen choose, and they will continue to push for
      their self-imposed plan which they hope will result in new classrooms
      three years from now. Only Joe Lewin asked the question, "If we
      don't move now, what are the consequences?... How important is
      2007?" No one answered.

      Thank you for reading this WVN newsletter. Please forward it to your
      friends and neighbors in Wayland. If they want to receive their own
      copy, they can send an email to waylandvoters2@... and they
      will be signed up for the listserv. Or, they can sign themselves up
      by sending a blank email to waylandvotersnetwork-
      subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Click reply and send after receiving an e-
      mail confirming the subscription. Anyone who'd rather receive
      information from WVN by phone or regular mail should leave a message
      at (508) 358-9171.

      Wayland Voters Network
      Margo Melnicove, Chair
      Michael Short, Treasurer
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.